24th July 2017 // Local
As you walk into The Modern Draper, the new menswear store recently opened by partners Chris Terry and Lisa Brown, it’s evident that this isn’t simply just another clothing outlet to add to the row on North Bar Within in Beverley; it’s a retail experience with every detail planned to precision. It’s exquisitely designed, with fittings designed by Mark Clifford (Cliff to his friends), items are expertly positioned for maximum effect, and the space is perfectly utilised so as to not be an all-out assault on the senses, because there is an Aladdin’s Cave of goodies within.
The first thing you see upon entry are quirky greetings cards. This is no accident. Chris is aware that high-end fashion retailers can be daunting places, so this is an intentional welcome mat if you like. We reminisce about how shops in Leeds and Manchester were terrifyingly intimidating places when we were younger, and The Modern Draper aims to be the antithesis of this. Each customer is warmly welcomed, and immediately offered a drink; a soft drink from the fridge or a real coffee, locally roasted by The Blending Room, Hull. The emphasis is squarely placed on the seemingly lost art of excellent old-fashioned customer service, and immediately you’re put at ease. It’s disarming in the most positive way possible.
Part of the pain of clothes shopping is the incessant bothering and hovering by the staff, but the attention lavished on customers here is decidedly non-intrusive; you’re greeted like an old friend whether you’re just browsing or intend to leave laden with bulging shopping bags. Everybody is welcome and everybody is welcomed, regardless of the colour of their credit card. It all contributes to a laid-back atmosphere where the customer is given space to browse the treasure on display. And it is a treasure chest; as well as clothing, footwear and accessories, you’ll find assorted curiosities such as cards, household items and amazing hand-picked coffee table books relating to pop culture, subcultures, music and of course, fashion. There’s a lot to take in, but it’s the opposite of cluttered.
In the 20 minutes or so before we retire to the beer garden next door, there’s a rush of customers, each one courteously dealt with, and each leaving with every intention of returning. There’s no pressure. Crucially, there’s a lot of smiling. Customers are added to mailing lists, offered drinks, made to feel at home in the hands of two people who are passionate about what they do, and are keen to redefine the minefield of the clothes shopping experience.
But the beer garden calls.
Chris Terry grew up in Hull, and during the 1980s developed a love for music, along with the aesthetics of those making the music. A flirtation with hair metal gave way to more the refined forms of post-punk synth bands, through the nascent hip-hop scene to the revolution of the house music scene. All these subcultures had strong looks, and coupled with the ‘casual’ style that prevailed through the 80s, the seeds were planted for a lifelong obsession with fashion. It’s this collision of styles that defines the look of his new shop; influences from different subcultures and the mixture of classic and contemporary, with leanings on the streetwear that makes the shop an Everyman affair. It’s a fine balancing act, and there are plans to open a second shop in the future, possibly in Hull, which would specialise mostly in streetwear, with the Beverley location earmarked for a more classic-meets-contemporary feel.
After leaving school, he briefly worked at Gordon Clarke, the place where you probably bought your school uniforms, but after a predictably earth-moving night out at the Haçienda in Manchester, where his car broke down, he spent the next day mooching around Manchester. As you do. The usual suspects, Afflecks Palace and Eastern Bloc were explored, but it was the famous L’Homme, owned by the larger-than-life Richard Crème, that proved to be the catalyst for his future career. The pay-off for the audacity of the sweaty raver entering the resolutely luxurious fashion emporium was that he blagged a job on the spot and decamped to Manchester the next week.
He learned the trade under the towering 7’ 3” Crème, in the process rubbing shoulders with such local luminaries as Tony Wilson, Shaun and Bez and Lisa Stansfield, and regards it as the single most important influence on the road that lay ahead. L’Homme was the first place outside London to stock, Gaultier, Comme Des Garçons and Yamamoto, and the connections and experience garnered during the 3-year stint were invaluable for his career.
He returned to Hull, and after a brief stint at Ludo, the hub of the early-90s club scene, he opened Evolution down Dagger Lane. Using his new-found nous, he became the first in Hull to stock John Richmond, Michiko Koshino, Red or Dead, Patrick Cox, Stüssy and Duffer of St. George among other exclusives. Along with the next-door neighbour, his more street-based Space, Sub-Level Records and nearby café Studio 10 ½, the arcade became the place to hang out before a night out, strutting like peacocks in your latest sartorial acquisitions. The shops thrived for around five years before the lure of Brighton became overwhelming.
He worked as a buyer for DesignLab in Brighton for a time before managing the Get Cutie womenswear brand, having carte blanche over the whole operation. He then landed a job as Senior Account Manager for Original Penguin in London, a position he held for nearly twelve years prior to his return to Hull.
As someone who’s lived away for a long period of time, his next move came as no surprise to me. Disillusioned with London, although being a magnet for fashionistas and creative types, it was becoming less edgy compared with other, more progressive European capitals, and creative types were leaving in droves. As the capital becomes increasingly more a playground for the super-rich, the enthusiasm wanes, and the pull of Hull, of home, becomes impossible to resist. The plan to open another retail outlet had been in Chris’ mind for a few years as he navigated his last few years in London. It was a case of fate, of synchronicity, and of an offer he couldn’t refuse landing in his inbox at the right time. You subscribe to Rightmove, knowing that 90% of emails will be spam. You stop even opening them. But a property in Beverley had become available. And it was love at first sight.
If you live away, you always become jaded and your surroundings no longer excite you as they initially did. You get itchy feet. You ache for faces that really value you. You miss friends and family. The familiar.
You want to come home.
It was a happy accident that the relocation coincided with Hull’s City of Culture status. The freak Rightmove email set the wheels in motion, despite having considered many other locations around the country. The prodigal son returned to a revamped city, one where creativity and collaboration was at its peak. The lack of this had precipitated his move out of Hull, but its re-emergence drew him back. Hull can be immensely proud of its response to being in the spotlight; there’s a buzz here not seen since the endless possibilities of the acid-house era, it’s beautiful to witness. The time was perfect to give Hull a menswear shop which draws on an unparalleled wealth of experience in the fashion industry.
Chris and Lisa’s desire to create a local business so that we no longer have to endure snide sneers from minimum-wage shop assistants in Nottingham or Sheffield for our clothes fix is a breath of fresh air. They offer globally-sourced brands, with high-end items sitting next to affordable alternatives; there’s something for everyone, and you don’t need to break the bank to be swaggering around in the latest contemporary fashion, although there is that option. Chris enthuses that one of the only positives to come out of the Brexit debacle is that there is a big focus on British designers. Hence, you will find items from Baracuta, John Smedley, Sunspel, and Oliver Spencer as well as high-end denim products from Blackhorse
The couple have big plans. The Beverley shop is just the beginning. Chris informs me of his desire to be a denim specialist; an outlet where you see a wall of denim of all persuasions. They already boast an extensive range with the aforementioned Edwin and Blackhorse Ateliers along with Lee and Nudie, but Chris’ eyes reveal an aspiration to branch out with a specialist store. He reveals plans for intentions of a Hull store in the pipeline, when the city centre becomes less fragmented, the idea being that the stores being showrooms for a global digital marketplace. As with the era of acid-house, where dreams were limitless, he has seen a reinvigorated, progressive city which can form the headquarters of his grand plan.
The digital ambitions come behind an innate need to provide the best customer service possible. It’s the first thing that’ll strike you as you enter, and as you walk out it’ll be your lasting impression. The modus operandi is implicitly ‘contemporary product coupled with old-fashioned customer service.’ As we finish our second beer, and he has to be off to continue the sincere charm offensive as Lisa manages single-handedly, he recounts a story of how he oversaw and personally delivered a customer’s order of two pairs of trousers. To Hornsea. You get a measure of the fashion enthusiast and his willingness to go the extra mile to ensure that customer satisfaction is ridiculously over-met. He considers himself an ‘editor’ rather than just a retailer, and his skill at delivering what his customers want is masterly to the point of mania.
It’s as if he’s been rehearsing for this moment his whole life. And it’s an Oscar-worthy performance he delivers. They both win big. And the region wins exponentially in having them back up here.